Stat of the Week - Number of looked-after children

22nd May 2009 at 01:00

Looked-after children remain some of the most disadvantaged and challenging children in our society. Although the number in long-term care has fallen this year, by about 500, this group still poses significant challenges to everyone who comes into contact with them.

Corporate parenting, where the state acts as a substitute parent, still has a long way to go if young people are to match the educational outcomes of most children who remain with their natural parents. However, it is not difficult to see the size of the challenge. Nearly 28 per cent of those looked-after children who had been in the care of the state for 12 months had statements of special educational needs, compared with fewer than 3 per cent overall. Young people in care for 12 months or more also had much higher rates of permanent exclusion from school, and one in 10 missed at least one day of schooling every fortnight.

Fortunately, following the attentions this group has received over the past three years, not least after a TES campaign in 2006, many indicators are now pointing in the right direction; but progress is pitifully slow. In part, this may be because of the time it takes to reach a decision to substitute corporate parenting for the efforts of those already caring for a child. This means a child often enters care already behind their peers in the classroom.

There may be less excuse for this group to have a record of cautions and convictions that is twice the rate for 10 to 17-year-olds as a whole, and in some areas, about four times higher than the figure for all children in the police force area.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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